In creating a Google My Business listing for your local business, making a data-based decision is one of the most important steps you’ll be taking. Just how influential are the categories you select?
What exactly is this all about?
Recent State of the Local SEO Industry 2020 survey found that, out of all factors, GMB elements (which include categories) have the greatest impact on local pack rankings. Choose wisely, and these elements help ensure Google views you as a candidate for possible inclusion as a result for a set of search phrases. Choose wrongly and you can exclude yourself from this vital visibility.
Google categories can also play a role in determining which features will be available to you in your Google Business Profile/Google listing. For example, if you’re categorized as a “hotel”, you won’t be able to use Google Posts. If you’re categorized as an educational institution, you won’t be able to receive reviews. Meanwhile, if you’re categorizing your business in the auto dealership space, you’ll be allowed to have multiple listings for your departments and the car makes you vend.
Categories impact the attributes that will be associated with your business, the menus you can use, whether booking buttons are available to you, and whether you have primary or secondary hours of operation displayed.
In short, your choice of your primary and secondary categories contributes a lot to Google’s understanding and handling of your business.
When and where to choose Google categories?
In creating a brand new Google My Business listing, one of the first thing Google asks you to do is to choose a category:
And, as Google says, you can change and add more categories later. Once you have access to your GMB dashboard, you’ll find your categories this way. Click on the “Info” tab in the left menu. Look right below your business name, where the pencil icon will let you edit your categories:
You can select up to 10 categories. Your primary category is most important. It will have the greatest influence on your local rankings. It must be chosen with extra care:
You can edit your categories in the GMB dashboard any time you want to. Please understand that doing so can substantially alter the rankings you’re experiencing for various search phrases.
How to choose Google categories?
Here’s your step-by-step workflow for picking the Google categories that are best for your business. Of course, with the help of some great tools.
1) Determine your most important search phrases
First, create a list that includes:
The type of business you operate (e.g. “supermarket” “medical center” “restaurant”) and its variants. For example, if you’re an attorney, list out the subtypes associated with your firm, such a “personal injury lawyer” or “tax attorney”. If you own a restaurant, include whether it’s an “Italian restaurant”, a “family restaurant” and other qualifiers. A supermarket might also be a “grocery store” or “natural foods store”.
The full list of goods and services you offer. Your HVAC company offers heater repair, air conditioner repair, etc. Another example would be your landscaping company offers tree service, landscape design, yard work, etc. Your clothing store offers men’s clothing, shoes, jewelry, etc.
Next, take your list of keywords and enter them into your choice of free or paid keyword research tools to discover which terms have the highest potential search volume. For example, Moz’s Keyword Suggestions tool within Moz Keyword Explorer can help you determine the difference in search volume between two terms like “Mexican restaurant” vs. “taco shop”:
Note down the search volume for each term on your list.
Finally, refine your list down to a smaller set of terms that combine the highest search volume with being most relevant and important for your company. In most cases, this is the list you’ll move ahead with. Although there are some cases in which you would choose to target lower volume search phrases. Why? Well, because they are either a) less competitive, or b) a more exact description of what your business is.
2) Determine which categories your market competitors are using for your most important search phrases
Now, take your refined list of search phrases over to Google and begin searching for them in your local market. Your local market is made up of your customers’ locations in relationship to your business location. This could only be as large as your neighbourhood. Or, it could include a whole city or several adjacent cities, depending on:
– Your business model
– The distance from which customers are willing to travel to get to your business
– The distance from which Google believes customers are willing to travel to get to your business
For example, a coffee shop might have quite a small local market if most of its customers arrive looking for a quick, convenient cup of coffee.
Meanwhile, an amusement park might have a much larger local market because people are willing to go a greater distance to visit it. Google’s local results increasingly reflect their understanding of intent differently for different business models.
Make a list of all the competitors you discovered in your market while searching from the location of your business.
Next, be sure you’re using the Chrome browser. Head over to Chrome Webstore to download the awesome, free, new extension called GMBspy. Developer of the extension is George Nenni of Generations Digital. Turning this extension on enables you to go to Google Maps, search for your market competitors and see their categories, like this:
You can look up competitors one by one, or just mouse around on the map to see the GMBspy extension data pop up.
Google doesn’t automatically reveal all the categories a business is using and so this little tool saves so much time, and a lot of fiddling around with HTML to access that data. What a great development!
Note down all of the categories your market competitors are using. Pay special attention to the categories being used by the business ranking #1 for each of your refined search phrases.
3) Get category suggestions and leave no stone unturned
Your market might be full of highly active competitors who have wisely chosen the best categories, or it could be a less sophisticated scenario in which other companies are overlooking opportunities you might be able to discover.
Hop on over to PlePer’s GMB Category Helper. Type in your business name and up to three comma-separated search phrases.
If you’ve not yet opened for business do this. Just enter the street address of your proposed location instead of a business name. Then, go get a cup of tea or do a little exercise for five minutes and come back for this amazing data:
Based on your lat-long coordinates, PlePer shows you your current categories. Also, you can see which categories are used in your area, a list of category suggestions, and other useful information. Quite cool! The free version of this tool lets you do three such searches per day. Jot down any notable findings that were absent from using GMBspy.
And, finally, just to be sure you haven’t missed any potential opportunities, move over to PlePer’s full GMB category list:
It’s updated at least every 3 days, which is great because Google continuously adds and subtracts categories. Just select your language and country and hit the “fetch” button. This tool can be especially useful if you offer an unusual good or service and aren’t sure whether a category exists for it. Note down anything you feel might be relevant.
Finally, within the GMB dashboard, Google will also sometimes make suggestions about additional categories. This you might want to consider adding:
In the above screenshot, you can see that some software company is causing Google to suggest that it might also want to select “accounting software company”. It is up to you to figure out whether these suggestions make sense.
You’ve now got all the data you need to make a selection. Of course, based on the categories that are applicable to your popular search phrases and that are being used (or overlooked) by your top market competitors. Well done!